“As your kid grows, he will learn so many things from you and in return, you will learn so much from him!”
Sage words that I received from a mom of 4 grown kids, when I was expecting my first child. But like most new parents or parents to-be, I could not swallow the idea of learning from a little life that I was bringing into this world.
I mean, come on, who is the parent here? I bet, like me, the mommy/daddy, in your head said, “You, of course”. Then, if you are the parent, it is your God-given right and duty to teach!
So, however does the idea of the lessons flowing the other way around even come into existence?
By the time my little one reached his 6 month mark, the truth in those words dawned upon me. I am sure all you parents out there must have already had your ah-ha moments with this one, whether you admit it not. So, how is it even possible for an infant, toddler or even middle schooler to teach a 20, 30 or 40 year old a thing or two? Blame it on this simple fact-
Somewhere along the line we go from being learners to “know-it all’s” in life!
As youngsters and even as young professionals we are driven by our desire not just to succeed but also to explore all that’s around us; all that we see and that which is beyond our reach. But, as we usher in our 30th birthday, this sense of wonderment is lost along with the lust to learn, and when I say learn I am not talking just about academics here.
Most 30-somethings start believing that they know everything there was to learn in their own world if not the world at large. Bring a little one into this equation, and the feeling of “I know all there is to life” gets cemented further.
Moreover, after living for about 2.5 decades, you get into a state of inertia, in terms of your thoughts and actions. Then comes along your little bundle of joy, who literally rattles your very existence.
That tiny little being gives you a new perspective on life and all aspects of it. And that is how our kids inadvertently end up teaching us more about ourselves, those around us and our lives. So, let me tell you about what my little ones have taught me and what all of us parents can do with these learnings.
Five things my child taught me about me – warning shocking revelations ahead!
1. I can take on way more than what I thought was possible:
Parenting is probably the hardest and most mentally and physically gruelling thing you will ever do. And you get no holidays from this one! But the fact that you hang in there day after day and you persevere while trying to do your best is what paints a clear picture of your grit, determination and your fighting spirit.
2. Patience can be my virtue too:
Before my first kid, I would proudly proclaim, “Patience isn’t my thing”. But after my little miracle came along I had no choice but to slow down. And I will tell you this, going from supersonic to cruise speed wasn’t all that bad.
In fact, it gave me a renewed appreciation for things that I had failed to so much as notice in the past. What’s more, it also made me realize that “strike hard and fast” is not always the right approach because often things and people just need some more time to come around.
3. My temper and even other negativities don’t have to get the better of me:
The first thing you realize when parenthood comes calling is that you no longer have the liberty to behave as you did when you were journeying through life alone or even as a twosome.
In fact, when you have a kid around you have to watch not just your words but also your emotions. Actually, I’d go so far as to say that nobody can teach you emotional control like your kids can. Above all, I learnt that the more I kept my negative emotions in check the better I was able to handle them and work through them.
4. I should be listening more and better:
Listening is a skill that takes a while to develop and you need to keep practicing it if you don’t want to lose your proficiency. Unfortunately, as you go through your work and home life, it gets easy to get to a point where your needs and your voice are the loudest.
Even before my kids uttered their first word, they made me hone my listening skills. And boy did that help me to understand what my babies needed and eventually to understand and empathize with what the adults around me were trying to convey.
5. I don’t always have to be perfect:
I feel “perfection” is a subjective term. Many of us proclaim that they do not succumb to the calls of perfectionism. But, the fact is that there are some aspects of life in which no matter what we do and how hard we try, the results never seem to satisfy us.
As a new mom, in my own judgement, I could never get anything right and no matter how hard I tried it was never enough. But as my little infant grew into a healthy and happy toddler and then into a balanced and happy child, it dawned on me that my performance wasn’t as bad as I had made it out to be in my own head. So, when we made two more additions to our family (twins), I was calmer, more sure of myself and more confident about my parenting skills.
Five things my child taught me about life – these were true game changers!
1. Live in the moment:
Here is the curse of adulthood- Brooding gets ingrained into our system. Compare this with the naturally “let’s move on to the next amazing thing” attitude that children have, and it is easy to see why kids are so at peace.
I admit I was one of those people who would have a hard time letting go of something that went wrong or did not work out the way I wanted it to. But, after the baby, ruminating thoughts were a liberty I could no longer afford.
And that was one of the best things that happened to me because when you step away from a troubling situation, you view of it is no longer clouded by your past assumptions and perceptions. When you see a problem for what it really is, it becomes easier to sort it out. And this is what I see kids doing all the time. If they have a problem, they try to solve it and if they can’t, they either come back to it the next day or leave it be.
2. Worrying is an impotent and futile state of mind:
I walked into motherhood with a lot of preconceived notions about what it would be like. Most of these had me worried to my very core. My pregnancy was a dream come true as was the arrival of my little munchkin. But like all things that are highly anticipated, the prelude and even new motherhood brought along pangs of worry and anxiety.
I did not know if I’d be able to do it. Honestly, the habit of worrying over actual and perceived problems was not just connected to my pregnancy. But, it did get amplified when we decide to start a family. I was worried out of my wits that I would not be able to handle mommy-hood as well as some other ladies out there. I had read up everything in the “mommy and baby” genre that I could get my hands on. Yet, I could not shake off the feeling of inadequacy.
And then I saw him for the first time, OK I admit it is mommy-bias, but he was the most beautiful baby in the world. I was too damn scared even to hold him, lest I hurt him. Then, my mom walks in and does just that wee bit of hand holding and the next thing I know I was doing all my mommy duties as required. And between diaper changes and feedings, it hit me, I was being paranoid and was worried for no reason at all.
Yes, there was a learning curve but I was committed to it and now I was doing a fine job of it. My kids are past the diaper stage but the realization that worrying amounts to nothing has stayed back with me. Now, I make a conscious effort to push out worries and replace them with a concrete or at least some plan of action. Because at the end of the day, worrying gets you nowhere but getting down to work no matter what it takes, does help.
3. So, what if you fall or fail, you get to get up and try again till you want to:
Let’s admit it, nothing demotivates a grown up like failure. More than the fact that we could not do something, it is the shame attached to the act of failing that stings us. Suddenly, it feels like the whole world is looking at us, even laughing at our expense. When you consider all that negativity, it is no wonder that most adults give themselves a chance or two and then quit.
Compare this with the gentle yet determined perseverance of a child. So, he takes a tumble, may even cry and ask for mommy to soothe him. But, that sure doesn’t stop him from having a go at this whole walking business, again, and again, and again, till he gets it right.
I had nowhere near the tenacity that these little ones have and exhibit so casually. In fact, I still don’t. But, watching my children go through each growing phase has helped me to at least try and emulate some of their perseverance. I no longer spend a lot of time dwelling on what others think about my performance at work or even in life.
Even when I receive a not so fantastic feedback, I consciously give myself the speech- “I could not get it right this time, so what? The big deal; I will try again. After all, if a little baby could try again and again, so can I”.
Has this made me a super performer? Hello, no! But it does give me the courage to stand up and come back to fight again the next day. It gives me the confidence to continue working on my skill sets while focusing on my goal and not the negativity that I encounter on the path to it. And that I believe is extremely important no matter what you want to achieve.
4. Enjoy and be grateful for the simplicities of life:
All of us live in a perpetual state of “Wanting- more”, and no I am not talking about more in terms of a million dollar car or a mansion here. But the fact is that in a household with 2 or 3 kids and 2 or more working adults, yes there is always room for improvement. And improvements come at a cost. So, of course, we are constantly in a rat race for more.
Unfortunately, while pursuing this highly dynamic goal of more, we forget to enjoy what we already have. We forget to be grateful for all that is simple yet spectacular about life. My child taught me that there is much pleasure and joy to be had in the simplest of things.
And I learnt this when I tried out a Popsicle recipe with melons, and hold your breath carrots, in it, and he is not a big fan of either. But the whole idea of getting a popsicle, not as a reward but just cuz, had him over the moon.
When I go out for a walk with my kids, I marvel at the way in which only kids can enjoy the sky, the grass and the dandelions. While I can’t bring myself to be as excited as them, I try to live that joy with them and I admit, it has given me a renewed sense of appreciation for everything that I have.
5. Marriage truly is a life partnership:
It’s true that all marriages change once you go from being a couple to being parents. Sure, date nights and romance are still essential. But as you put in all the hard work that parenting calls for, it deepens your sense of connection with your partner.
The fact that my husband was working just as hard as I was and while I was still given to my hormonal grumbling, he was pushing his way through twice as much work with a smile, made me respect him even more. On his part, his understanding that I was going through an extraordinary physical transformation and yet persisting made him go from respecting me to admiring me (his words not mine, I swear).
Will all of you feel this way? Absolutely, not! But one in three couples feel that their marriage improved after kids came along. Of course, you may not always agree on parenting techniques. But, the attempt to put up a united front for the kids, gets you into the habit of not letting your differences in opinion impact your march towards your mutual goal.
Is all that learning and re-learning worth it?
As with all life lessons, these too will serve you well as long as you choose to incorporate them in your day to day living. In fact, there are myriad benefits to these lessons relearned. For instance:
All around wellbeing: If you analyze closely, you will notice that most things that you re-learn from your children are base level lessons; those that can impact the fundamentals of your life- That’s your physical and psychological wellbeing.
You hear your children better: When you use these lessons in your interaction with your children, they put you on the same mental wavelength as your kids and that can go a long way in opening up the channels of two way communication between you and your children.
Creates two way trust: When you see life and the world from your child’s point of view, it becomes easier or at least possible to empathize if not completely understand their problems. If that’s not enough, the senses of reciprocity this creates goes a long way in fostering trusts between child and parent. And when that happens, you know who your kid is going to turn to if he/she ever faces a trying situation in life.
So, what do you do with all that in advertent learning?
Using my learnings to help me: Personally, when it comes to using these lessons for myself, I take a step back and ask myself what my kid would do if he were to face a similar situation (and if like boss baby he had the understanding of what’s going on in the grown-up world). I am not suggesting that you actually use these epiphanies.
But, you would be surprised at how different the solutions and decisions can be when the problem is analyzed from an altogether different angle. Having said that, usually, I end up somewhere in between my approach and my kid’s approach. Of course, this is situation-specific and kiddie-world solutions don’t always work or even apply in the adult atmosphere.
However, if nothing else, the new way of thinking will take away some of the stress and even leave you with a few laughs and a smile. Now, you would be surprised at how soon these can diffuse a problematic situation. Plus, they give you the ability to plow your way through seemingly unmanageable problems.
Using my learnings to help my kids: Yes, perceiving the world, as our kids do, helps us to create mental and emotional connect with them, but there is also another, better angle to this story. When they see that you are open to listening to their suggestions and accepting of their ideas, this can tremendously boost the self-esteem and self-confidence of a growing child/young person.
The mere fact that grown-ups, no less their parent, is open to viewing things from their perspective provides a remarkable sense of empowerment. In fact, in my humble opinion, the realization brings about a sense of maturity and responsibility in a child.
Using my learnings to help others: Children are very easy to talk to, and that is what immediately disarms people. And believe me when I tell you this, it’s not their smaller frame that makes them seem less intimidating. Perhaps, the cherubic face does the trick, but it is also their attitude. They don’t judge you when you fall; yes there may be some giggling, but that is about it.
Similarly, they are always egging to go and have fun. In fact, they will find fun and laughter and happiness even when and where adults cannot find a trace of these. So, when you take a few life lessons from kids, you inevitably project this positive side of childhood and that can make others immediately drop their guard around you and open up to you.
Of course, it also makes it easy for people to get along with you, and we all know how far a bit of rapport can go in both professional and personal life.
And the final question of the day – Are there more lessons to come?
You bet there will be many, many more lessons to come in the future! In fact, if there aren’t any, blame it squarely on your inability to listen and learn. But, here is the way I look at it- None of us can rewind our lives, so we are never going to go back to being kids, teens or twenty year olds. Actually, some of us may not want to do that even if a time machine were parked outside our door.
But no matter how and what your experiences were at those stages of life, you cannot deny that even a slight infusion of excitement in the mundane and zest for life can make every day seem better. It also goes without saying that with technology growing at warp speed, older kids can help us to keep up to date with what is new and happening.
So, don’t let the two-way learning bridge break down. In fact, as your kids get older be more open and vocal about wanting to learn the new stuff, the younger stuff from them. I for one feel this is the best way to age with grace while trying to hold on to your youth! So, on that note I leave you with my best wishes for years of learning and teaching to come!